Welcome to the Philippines – Felt Like a Local This Weekend….

In philippines business, travel by Michael Michelini13 Comments

man, I am trying to submerse myself into the culture to learn how people live….but this past weekend took it to extremes! Marie, Jennifer, Analou and myself went on a weekend trip to Batangas. After night shift on friday night, we left around 7am, packing up light backpacks with swimsuits and a change of clothes, it was exciting!

Unfortunately, we were advised to go on the wrong bus, and then had to take about 4 transfers of buses / jeepnee and then tricycles to get back on track…….was rather eye opening on the reality of the fragments and dispersed infrastructure and transportation systems in this country. Arriving to the “resort” around noon….we were all exhausted and caught a nap.

Talk about SECLUDED. There was NOTHING, i mean nothing around……only the resort kitchen could prepare food for us, and there wasn’t wifi or internet at all. I couldn’t even connect my mobile phone’s GPRS to the satellite from there. As it was just after a typhoon, they advise not to come to the beach until at least 2 weeks after, as the sea has brought up a lot of “rubbage” that has washed on shore – which for sure it did. But we had a bonfire and met with the staff (as no other tourists were even there!)

Water buffalo were roaming around, got to catch myself with a photo of one that is here. Just am amazed the few things people can live with. Some of these people are born here and probably never leave. This is what they know. Chickens clucking around near the sea, catch different fish each day, and just enjoy life…..

Then suddenly, IT STARTED TO RAIN. And it came down fast and strong. Everyone ran quickly back to their huts to get some rest. I love sleeping in a rainstorm, so that wasn’t a problem…..slept like a baby (plus I was exhausted anyway) and woke up next morning.

After breakfast, we hit the road. Another person from our new office, Louie, had his home nearby in Laguna, and we promised we would stop by for lunch. MORE CONFUSING directions, a couple extra jeepnees, and more rainfall, we arrived after about 3 hours to Louie’s home in the city Calamba, in the Laguna province. Nice home there, he has a nice wife and a beautiful baby girl. FIRST TIME HIS DAUGHTER SAW A WHITE PERSON. And she cried as soon as she saw me….man….normally babies laugh at my stupid face….but this girl was bawling. Maybe my normally funny faces and joking animal noises scared the girl.

We only planned to stay there a couple hours, and then we had Marie’s brother’s birthday back in Manila that night. The family had prepared special dinner for me….being a foreigner they wanted me to try something. But we never MADE IT. We stayed overnight in Louie’s home…..it was too late to leave at 9pm…and too dark. I insisted I would go, but Louie chimes in:

I don’t think its a good idea if you, a white guy, goes to the bus station at night with 3 drunk (tipsy from shots of GSM liquor around the karaoke tv in his living room) filipina girls, Louie says. I guess I have to realize I have no idea where I am still in this country, and it is rather scary here in the Philippines at night….so I couldn’t promise I could do a good job watching over the girls as I went into a crowded bus station in a foreign city in a foreign country!!!

So while the girls stayed at home, Louie, his 2 local friends, and I hopped on their motorbikes and rode off into the rainy night to check out the local bars. Man….it just didn’t feel so safe on that speeding bike. Holding on, I hung with the boys for a night on the town. I ate some kind of cow stomach soup to end the night. There was a “tough guy” picking a fight with us because Louie and his friends were speaking english instead of the local language Tagalog. Anyway, zipping off on the motorbikes, we returned to Louie’s home at around 2am (oh yea, and a beetle smashed right in my eyeball on the ride back, almost fell off the bike it was so heavy!)

Sleeping on the couch a few hours, we woke up at 6am Monday to catch the bus back to Manila. Louie told us it would only be about 40 minutes, but due to highway construction, it may take longer!

He maybe should have taken us to the bus station, because I swear we got on the wrong bus (AGAIN)- completely packed bus, I got pushed and jammed my index finger into a handlebar on the bus seat…..big bruised cut up finger right now.

BUS transfer, traffic jams, I had to go to the bathroom, and its not a problem to just hop off the bus and go on the side of the highway during this traffic jam.

Smoke in my face, the non-air conditioned open aired bus was just a magnet for all the soot and exhaust from the highway around us. Making it back around noon today, I tried to wash off all the fumes and exhaust from me and crashed to sleep….

I can’t believe people here CAN DO THAT EVERY DAY

I really was frustrated, the feeling of:

NO MONEY – I had only brought cash, and it wasn’t enough after all the delays and re-routing….so I was borrowing from friends.

NO CELL BATTERY – due to lack of electricity, I didn’t have the opportunity to charge my cell phone…so I was running around without a cell phone

TRAFFIC JAMS – everywhere….too many cars, no train system, and highways always under construction….government doesn’t seem to care about investing in its infrastructure, or public transportation. There is only 1 train line in the whole country, and its overpacked…I see it pass me by on the highway and they are like sardines….jam packed in those train cars.

HUNGRY – because we’re always jammed in traffic, it was hard to get time to find food. Oftentimes there are hustlers jumping onto the bus to sell you their food….but not my type of apetizers….

TIRED, STRESSED – just the volume of noise, motorcyles, “barkers” (independent commissioned sales agents who get 1 peso for bringing customers onto the buses), and just overall chaos constantly…..it is overwhelmingly stressful and straining

NO CONTROL – seems almost everyone is at mercy of their environment…..I need control, but these situations we were in, no one could control. No one to improve, no one to listen. Government doesn’t seem to be investing in new highways or more public transportation…

At times, I felt like I was on hell on earth. Really, not sure how people can be surrounded by that manila traffic day in and day out….

I blew my nose…and it was just black filth….horrible.

Ok, enough venting….what a rush, i definitely felt like a local…..and respect these people for being able to endure this day in and day out……I could barely stand it for a few days…

(originally posted July 26, 2010)

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  1. Learn to eat balut and fish heads & rice or you’ll be dead in about three days. It really is about time to head home, little fella. Accept failure, learn from it, quit leaching from your friends, head home, get some home cooking, and try again somewhere else. Australia…that’s always been a destination for the American dreamer. Think about it.

  2. yo mike wow that sounds crazy. yeah its amazing all the infrastructure we often take for granted here in the US. its still slow and frustrating, but it seems that health and risks are a bigger concern here. stay safe dude, cant wait to see ya

    1. Author

      Hey Piotr,

      I talked to my friend Larry about this issue, and he was saying in order for these developing countries to take advantage of this foreign investment, they must invest that inflow of tax dollars on their infrastructure

      if they dont invest it well (or. sadly, it goes to corrupt politicians and private companies) then their people can never have the chance for a better country….

      I hope the philippines can learn from this……

  3. Great post. See you like it there. I can also recommend Bangladesh or certain places in India to you. About the same x 10 🙂 Ok, it’s a joke. But keep the good work and posts going.

    1. Author

      hey orientix ,

      thanks for reading!!!! India is on my list for 2011……stay tuned…..

      don’t worry, the blog posts are steady a-coming!


  4. A little different weekend from mine. We may be tied for “crazy”, just for completely different reasons:

    Today has been like the Monday of all Mondays.

    Since Friday:

    Got a parking ticket
    Got rear ended by a cab
    Got stuck in a tornado warning in NJ, car stuck in 2ft deep puddle
    Was on 149th st in Bronx at 11pm at night trying to find disposable coolers for move client freaking out
    Got home 1am
    1:30am – taking a shower, the entire kitchen cabinets in the laundry room in my apt fell off the wall and came crashing down

    Sat – went to NYC for company trip to 6 flags, staying over my sales manager place there. 10pm, the bus driver cancels. Spend next two hours figuring out what to do, call operations manger, said he can get us 15 passenger vans from Bronx. Go to bed 2am.

    7am – Bronx – show up at rental place, guy has no idea what were talking about
    8 – still waiting for vans
    9 – (with 35 people waiting for us) – calling EVERYONE looking for a va
    9:45 – found someone with vans
    10:30 – pick up at FlatRate, go to 6 flags
    2pm – thunderstoms shut park down
    6pm – park reopens
    10pm – leave park
    Midnight (after hour plus traffic at Holland tunnel) get back to NYC. Drop off people, drop off vans, get in my car to drive manager back to BK to his palce
    1am – leave NYC
    3:15am – get home, snooze, wake up, here I am.

    And today has been NUTS!

    1. Author

      hey Andrew,
      yes a bit different type of weekend…..but crazy none the less!!!!

      i’m sure when we meet up again in NY and CT….we’ll have the same blog entry of craziness……soon enough

  5. Hey Mike, it happens here too. did you hear about the people that run the city of Bell CA? its part of LA county but the city manager was making something like 800K and police chief 450K. we have our share of corrupt politicians here too. It is the size of our government, therefore the slowness, that gives not one person too much power, that allows for anything to happen. Smaller countries give too much power to one person or one small group of people – and end up being corrupt quicker.

    1. Author

      Piotr –
      good follow up, I’m not too up on the USA news these days except what I catch on Yahoo! Finance News.

      Its sad there are still these government officials who are there to make their own cash instead of doing their damn jobs! You think that if they wanted to rob and cheat people they could just start a company doing that!!! In a way, a private business can get away with more……to make profit and cash, but a government official has a responsiblity to the people they are representing….and that is the sick part……

      I guess its what makes the world go around….if there wasn’t lying, cheating, and corruption – a lot of jobs would also be lost too, right. Police, FBI, etc etc…

      Looking for answers…..wondering when they will come….

  6. This is a great post of your sharing your experiences here. Sounds like it could turn into some kind of novel. Thanks and appreciate hearing of your adventures.

    1. Author

      glad you enjoy Nelly….

      yes, this blog started back a few years ago before I left my dayjob at Deutsche Bank. My friends in NY wanted to follow my adventures, and thought it would make a great blog…..

      i do dream one day to make a book

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